When we launched xs:code exactly a year ago, our goal was to help open source developers get the resources they need to continue developing their projects by monetizing their code. Since then, more than 2,000 developers have joined our community, and generated much needed revenue for their projects by offering paid support, licensing and premium versions of their open source projects.
Open Source Needs Support
In the months since our launch, my team and I have spent countless hours analyzing data and talking to open source developers, R&D managers and team leads. We tried to understand where the biggest pain point was for developers working with open source components, products and frameworks in their day-to-day development tasks. One word came up repeatedly: Support.
The massive adoption of open source has created a challenging environment for developers. There are endless possible combinations of frameworks, operating systems, databases and components – most of them are open source, and they don’t always play nice together. Throw into the mix different builds, versions and legacy code and you’re in trouble. Developers often struggle to debug code they did not write, with scarce documentation to rely on, if any. When they turn to Stack Overflow and similar websites for help, the static, often outdated information, does not cover all possible combinations, and specific problems require specific solutions. It became clear to us, that where forums fail, sometimes, 5 minutes with an expert can save you days of work. But where do you find the right expert to talk to?
Open Source Developers are the Key
It then dawned on us that the best people to help solve highly specific problems are those with a very particular set of skills.
For obvious reasons, the developers who create, maintain and contribute code to the open source software you are using are better equipped than anyone on the planet to help with issues related to their code. And it’s not just their own code that they can provide assistance for. An open source developer who created a hugely popular Vue component is likely able to help you with other Vue related components as well. A developer who contributed to multiple Redis related repositories is probably highly familiar with Redis, and can help if you have a Redis problem no one else on your team can solve.
Open source is more than just code. It’s knowledge. It’s expertise. It’s years of experience. Needless to say, open source developers are hugely under compensated. We all use their code for free, but rarely think about the people behind the code and what a valuable asset their expertise can be. If we get their code for free – it’s time we start paying for their time.
Armed with this insight, we set out to create the latest release to xs:code. Not just an open source monetization platform for open source developers, but a place where developers who need help, can connect instantly and chat with expert open source developers (which we call “Aces”) who are willing to offer paid, online support for any coding issue.
To ensure we provide the best matches between a problem and the Ace most suitable to solve it, we created a ranking algorithm that ranks developers based on their expertise in specific development topics. We rely on developers’ public open source contributions as guidelines to make the best possible match between developers looking for help, and the Aces best equipped to help them. We calculate this ranking using a variety of parameters, but give significant weight to the amount of code contributions an Ace has made to relevant open source repositories. This helps us assess their expertise in topics associated with those repositories.
It’s important to note that our ranking does not determine who is a better developer. Nobody knows that. We only try to project who might be a good fit to help with a specific topic, a combination of topics, or provide support for a specific open source repository. If an Ace had multiple pull-requests merged to multiple highly popular repositories with similar topics, it suggests proficiency in those topics, increasing their rank in those topics respectively. The algorithm dives deeper than just commits and repository stars, but essentially it provides other developers with enough information to decide if an Ace has the expertise and experience to help with a specific problem.
Aces to the Rescue
When you find an Ace on xs:code, just hit “Chat” and state your problem as specifically as you can. It’s up to the Ace to decide if they can help, and how much they’d like to charge for it. There are plenty of Aces to choose from, but choose wisely, and try not to waste anyone’s time with pointless questions, or if you’re not willing to pay for their time. Remember – everyone’s busy, and the fact that an Ace is on xs:code does not mean they owe you anything. Don’t get yourself banned for spamming or annoying others. Respect them – and they, in turn, will respect you.
While we are still in Beta and have a lot of polishing to do, we’d love to hear your feedback and thoughts at https://xscode.com.
You can also check out our leaderboards and find out if you’re ranked as an Ace here: https://xscode.com/leaderboards